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United States v. Rodriguez

April 12, 2010

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
JOSE ANTHONY RODRIGUEZ DEFENDANT



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Yvette Kane, Chief Judge United States District Court Middle District of Pennsylvania

(Chief Judge Kane)

MEMORANDUM

Pending before the Court is Defendant Jose Anthony Rodriguez's motion to suppress evidence. (Doc. No. 20.) Defendant moves to suppress drug evidence found and seized at the residence where he was located and arrested by state police as well as statements he made to the police before his arrest. (Doc. No. 20 ¶ 25.) For the reasons that follow, the motion will be denied.

I. Background*fn1

On February 21, 2009, at approximately 9:30 a.m., an individual named Edward Swanson arrived at the Huntingdon barracks of the Pennsylvania State Police and spoke with Trooper Daniel Boyd. (Tr. 15; Doc. No. 20 ¶ 4.) Swanson told Trooper Boyd that he was concerned about the safety of his friend Joanne Cantagallo, who he thought might be in danger or being held against her will. (Tr. 15.) Swanson told Trooper Boyd that he had received a telephone call from Cantagallo at approximately 4:50 a.m. that morning. (Tr. 29.) According to Swanson, Cantagallo was at a residence located at 9181 Bark Ridge Road, Huntingdon, Pennsylvania. (Tr. 15; Doc. No. 20 ¶ 8.)

On February 21, 2009, at approximately 10:30 a.m., Trooper Boyd, Corporal Timothy Cummings, Trooper Nick Benkovich, and Trooper Michael White, arrived at 9181 Bark Ridge Road. (Tr. 21, 44.) Upon arriving at the residence, a single-wide trailer, Trooper Boyd went to the front door, which consisted of both an outer screen door and a solid inner door. (Tr. 30.) Trooper Boyd knocked on the front door. (Tr. 16, 30.) Defendant answered the door. (Tr. 16, 30.) Defendant was wearing a white tank top and a pair of shorts, and it appeared to Trooper Boyd that Defendant had just awakened. (Tr. 16, 31.) Trooper Boyd asked Defendant if Cantagallo was there, and Defendant answered in the affirmative. (Tr. 16, 31-32.) Trooper Boyd asked Defendant if he could come in to speak with her, and Defendant allowed him to come into the residence. (Tr. 16, 31-32.) Trooper Boyd, Trooper Benkovich, and Corporal Cummings entered the residence. (Tr. 18, 46.)

Once inside the residence, Defendant turned his back to Trooper Boyd and began to walk down the hallway to the bedroom, which was approximately fifteen feet from the front entrance. (Tr. 39-40.) While Trooper Boyd was walking behind Defendant, he saw numerous small plastic bags sticking to Defendant's left arm. (Tr. 18, 34.) Trooper Boyd and Corporal Cummings followed Defendant to the open door of the bedroom, but did not seek permission to do so. (Tr. 17-18, 33, 46.) In the bedroom, Defendant went to wake up Cantagallo, who was laying on a mattress on the floor. (Tr. 18-19, 33.) At that time, the packets that had been sticking to Defendant's arm fell off and landed on the floor. (Tr. 18.) Corporal Cummings picked up the packets and held them in his hand. (Tr. 18, 46.) Trooper Boyd also observed some syringes and a spoon lying on top of a table next to the bed. (Tr. 22.)

After Defendant woke up Cantagallo, the troopers moved her and Defendant to the living room area of the residence. (Tr. 19, 57-58.) There were two separate couches in the living room facing each other. (Tr. 19, 35.) Cantagallo and Defendant each sat on separate couches. (Tr. 19, 35.)

Corporal Cummings, who had the small plastic bags that had fallen off Defendant's arm, asked Defendant what they were. (Tr. 19.) Defendant stated that it was heroin and that he was a heroin addict. (Tr. 19, 21, 49.) Defendant asked if he could have a couple packets to get him through the day. (Tr. 21.)

While in the living room, the troopers asked Defendant for identification, and Defendant pointed to a wallet that was sitting on a mantel. (Tr. 48.) Corporal Cummings picked up the wallet, which contained a large amount of cash. (Tr. 50.) Corporal Cummings made a comment that there was a lot of money in the wallet, and Defendant responded that he had won the money at the race track. (Tr. 50-51, 61.)

The troopers contacted Trooper Anthony Drass who works with the Huntingdon County Drug Task Force, and were advised that they should contact the owner of the residence, Gretchen Booker, to request consent to search the rest of the residence. (Tr. 22, 66-67.) Unable to reach Booker, the troopers placed Defendant and Cantagallo under arrest for possession and possession with intent to deliver nine packets of suspected heroin. (Tr. 22, 61, 67; Doc. No. 20 ¶ 17.) Two officers stayed on the premises to secure the residence pending application for a search warrant. (Tr. 22, 61-62.) The troopers secured the premises by locking the front door behind them as they left the residence, and then staging the officers in the driveway of the residence. (Tr. 22-23.)

Subsequent to Defendant's arrest, police prepared a search warrant to search the residence on February 21, 2009. (Tr. 37, 67.) The search warrant was initially prepared by Trooper Dross at barracks, who then faxed an initial copy to Magisterial Judge Mary Jamison. (Tr. 68.) Trooper Dross testified that he then personally traveled to Judge Jamison's office, met with her, and then he and Judge Jamison signed the original copy of the search warrant at 5:30 p.m. on February 21, 2009. (Tr. 68-69, 71-72.) Having secured a warrant, Trooper Dross called by phone to a search team that was standing by outside the Booker residence. (Tr. 71.) Pursuant to this warrant, the troopers began conducting their search of the residence at 5:35 p.m. on February 21, 2009. (Tr. 71-72.) The evidence obtained during this search included a black nylon case with four bundles of heroin packets (altogether 39 baggies of heroin) and numerous other drug paraphernalia. (Doc. No. 20-4 at 6; Doc. No. 21 at 3.) Defendant was arraigned before Judge Jamison at approximately 6:00 p.m. on February 21, 2009. (Doc. No. 20 ¶ 22.)

II. Discussion

In his motion, Defendant seeks to suppress all evidence found and seized at 9181 Bark Ridge Road, Huntingdon, Pennsylvania, the residence where he was located and arrested by state police. (Doc. No. 20 ¶ 25.) On December 4, 2009, the Court held an evidentiary hearing on Defendant's motion. United States v. Voigt, 89 F.3d 1050, 1067 (3d Cir. 1996) (finding that Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 12 requires the Court to hold an evidentiary hearing on a defendant's motion if the claim is colorable and material facts are in dispute). Defendant raises three different arguments in his suppression motion. First, Defendant argues that he did not consent to the initial entry by the officers to the residence, thereby rendering all evidence obtained a violation of the Fourth Amendment and fruit of the poisonous tree. (Doc. No. 20 ¶¶ 25(a) & (b).) Second, Defendant argues that even if he consented to entry, all evidence seized pursuant to the police's search of the house should be suppressed because the search warrant was not issued until after the police completed their search. (Id. ¶ 25(c).) Finally, Defendant argues that any statements he made to law enforcement during the initial entry into the residence should be suppressed because he was not advised of his Fifth Amendment rights. (Id. ¶ 25(d).) In its response, in addition to ...


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